Grim news continues to come out of Ukraine. Mass graves are being discovered. And stories of torture and executions are multiplying. Not since World War 2 has Europe been the site of such atrocities. But now, with another apparently unhinged despot doubling down on justifying his aggression, there are nuclear weapons of mass destruction at play. What were at one time far-fetched plots for military thrillers, now are daily headlines. And to add to it all: is the pandemic really over? Could a new strain of virus be around the corner, along with the uncertainty of how to deal with it? Runaway inflation? I feel depression knocking at my door, and I can’t see how it’s going to end.
“Hope” is a nice word for such a time we’re in now. But how does that word play out in this season of war and potential mass destruction? How do we find real hope when most the news coming at us feels dark with no reliable light at the end of the tunnel?
What Does It Actually Mean?
An online dictionary defines hope as “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.” While this is how most people generally think of hope, I have a problem with this definition. It reduces hope to a mere feeling. And if I’ve learned anything about feelings, it’s that they’re unreliable and rarely stick around through every season. For such a time as this, I need something that works apart from my emotions and that I can rely on regardless what I’m feeling as I scan the news.
I prefer to understand hope as the belief that there is good in the future. Beliefs can be felt at times, but they aren’t dependent on feelings. To believe that there is something ahead that can give me a kind of goodness that will make my present pain and confusion melt away gives me strength to endure today. Hope is more than wishing for something to be true. It’s the confidence that the way things are now is not the way they’re going to remain.
Not Everything is Worthy
My definition, however, requires hope to be rooted in something that can deliver the goods. Sometimes I put my hope in things that do not have the capacity to produce what I am ultimately longing for. “I hope I can make more money and finally find peace.” Or “I hope I can find a ‘significant other’ and finally feel secure.” And even, “I hope a certain person gets elected as president so I can finally feel good that my country’s problems are going to improve.” None of these, though they involve significant issues that impact my life, are worthy of my hope. They can’t deliver the bottom line of what my heart is longing for. Unfortunately, many of us have built our lives on a series of false hopes. We believe that if a particular thing will change or can be added, or be taken away, then we will finally be able to have good lives. Yet, even if on the surface we get what we want, sooner or later we will once again feel disrupted, agitated, or empty.
Hope, however, is a necessary ingredient for life. There are many things we can live without, but hope is not one of them. And so, we continue to seek things that are solid enough to hold life-sustaining hope, things that can withstand the uncertainties of life in this world. Deep down we know that our lives and the ability to keep going depend on it. We’ve got to have hope.
But what about Jesus followers? What can we put our hope in that can weather all the ups and downs that life on this planet throws at it? I believe it can be found in one word—resurrection.
New Body, New Life, New Hope
From the beginning, the heart of the Christian faith has been based on phrases like this: “I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said” (1 Corinthians 15:4 NLT).
“He was raised from the dead.” Resurrection didn’t mean mere resuscitation of His heart and other organs. It wasn’t divine CPR that brought Jesus out of the grave. A whole new type of life was infused into the old DNA of His body. He did not become a Christianized zombie. A “perishable” body was transformed into an “imperishable” one (1 Corinthians 15:42 ESV). After His resurrection, Jesus was recognizable and physical—He emphasized to His disciples that He was not a ghost and even ate some fish to prove it (Luke 24:37-43). Yet His body was also supernatural—He walked through a wall into a locked room (Luke 24:36). Jesus was, and still is today, the prototype of the earthly and the heavenly brought together perfectly.
But the good news for us is that we and the whole of creation have been promised this same kind of resurrection (read 1 Corinthians 15, the whole chapter). It begins as an internal work of faith where we encounter Jesus and experience personal transformation—freedom from old bondages with the ability to embrace supernatural love, joy and peace. But it doesn’t stop there. The scriptures assure us that we will be given new bodies like Jesus when we see Him face to face (Romans 8:23; 1 John 3:2). We are promised eternity with physically imperishable bodies to serve God on the future “resurrected” new earth (Romans 8:19-22; 2 Peter 2:13; Revelation 21:1).
This promise of future resurrection for all of creation is to be the foundation of hope for Jesus followers. No matter how bad it gets now—for me personally or for the whole world—it’s not how things are going to remain. There is good in the future! Goodness that stretches us beyond our imaginations!
Resurrection is where my ultimate hope is rooted. God in His goodness gives me glimpses of it in this present life. And when things like economic disruption and the threat of global war disrupt so many pieces of my existence that I have put my hope in, I have the opportunity to make adjustments and reposition my hope to where it needs to be. When I see Jesus face-to-face, I will be like Him!
He Is Risen!
Easter is coming, more appropriately called Resurrection Day! It’s a time to celebrate what Jesus has done for us through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave. But it’s also a time to ask ourselves where we have placed our hope—in perishable or imperishable things? His resurrection is a picture of what we have to look forward to that can’t be taken away. Do we believe this enough to put our hope in it? Goodness has been promised for our future. Let us meditate on this.
The way things are now is NOT the way they are going to remain! He was dead, and now He is risen!
There is hope for the future!
(Edited and reposted from April 6, 2020)